Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blizzard 2015 Mid-Week Fun at Saddleback

While Saddleback did not get slammed with snow like the coast did during the January 2015 blizzard, they did pick up a solid foot which freshened things up considerably to say the least.

Wardens Worry was Great!
The Freeport school system called off classes for a second day on Wednesday and that meant the @MaineSkiFamily boys and mom had a bonus ski day. Too many things going on at work for the old man. They report that while some of the entrances to trails were blown off due to the high winds during the storm, the snow was deep and fluffy once down the trail a bit. Some of the @MaineSkiFamily favorites like Wardens Worry and Governor skied exceptionally well and all the glades were spot on. Overall a great 'school' day on the slopes!

More snow on the way Friday looks like! Get out there and ski in Maine!

Here is the video of the day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blizzard 2015 Backyard Skiing in Freeport

The blizzard of 2015 January 27th, 2015 brought 20+ inches of snow to Freeport, Maine. The @maineskifamily boyz waited patiently for the snow to mount and towards the end of the day ABSOLUTELY SHREDDED IT in our backyard gully. Excellent show!

More snow on Friday! Best weekend of the year coming up! Get out and ski in Maine!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 MLK Weekend at Saddleback

The @MaineSkiFamily crew made a long MLK weekend of it at Saddleback. We set up camp in the trail side Mountain Brook condos and had an enjoyable weekend.

Weather played a major role in our skiing. On Friday we drove up and got to the base lodge mid-day and the temperature was 21 degrees. The wind was starting to blow from the Northwest and the temperature plummeted to breezy 8 degrees in two hours. Saturday morning we awoke to -14 below zero with a calm wind and it was still below zero an noontime. Sunday temps warmed up to the freezing mark and then we had rain and upper 30's overnight into Monday. Pretty wild swings in the weather!

Overall the skiing was quite good. While Saturday was brutally cold and we only got a few runs in, we had a great day on Sunday. Everything was open except the Casablanca glades, and we were able to find soft stashes of snow on most of the natural trails in an around the various hard pack. The groomers were in excellent shape all weekend. There was a good crowd on the slopes Sunday and everyone was having a good time.

On Sunday, we skied with a co-worker of mine Jesse and his girlfriend Nichole. It was a lot of fun showing them around our favorite mountain. Nichole even got her picture snapped and featured on the mountain social media stream and its website.

Nichole Skiing Silver Doctor (Image Courtesy of Saddleback)

On an non-skiing note, my wife and I had a fireside dinner by chef Patrick Friel at the Saddleback base lodge while the boys went bowling at Moose Alley down in Rangeley. The food was exquisite and it was a very nice fine dining experience. We highly recommended it! Moose Alley was a lot of fun for the boys and a great off-mountain activity in the Rangeley area.

While Saddleback got some rain it looks like they made it through the event OK and have plenty of cover. We are already looking forward to getting back up there. Here is a video of our weekend.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Snow at Saddleback - January 4, 2015

It was a tricky forecast for Sunday January 4. Every type of precipitation was forecasted overnight Saturday into Sunday plus some possible strong gusty winds. We rolled the dice a bit and drove up Saturday evening, stayed at the Rangeley Saddleback Inn (acceptable place to crash for the night although a bit pricey at $145 for 2 Queens but that is the standard rate in Rangeley seems like) and took our chances we would be able to get some soft turns in on Sunday.

Saddleback ended up getting 6 inches of snow overnight and then it changed to freezing drizzle by 8AM... but fortunately the drizzle and wind was not enough to shut down lift operations. All the lifts turned except for the Rangeley double and Saddleback basically stayed away from ice affecting lift operations as it did with other New England resorts including Sugarloaf.

The skiing was good but it was hit or miss. We basically lapped the upper Kennabago quad chair for the morning. We did not venture west towards Casablanca as it was too socked in weather wise but there may have been good skiing to be had over in that direction. If you skied over there please leave a comment on the blog as to how it was! Most of the wide open groomed runs had the snow blown off (skiers right of Green Weaver was silky smooth however), and the glades needed a bit more snow to make them more enjoyable as we were hitting the firm base too often. However the classic narrow Saddleback narrow trails of Jane Craig, Professor and Peachy's Peril held great soft snow and we hit them multiple times.

While it was a light freezing drizzle most of the morning, right around 12:30 the temperature spiked to the upper 30's (a good 10 degrees) in a matter of minutes and it turned the dense sugary snow into a mash. We decided to call it a day early and enjoy a leisurely lunch (and an old-man Saddleback ale) at the Swig and Smelt pub upstairs in the base lodge. Our meal was great - highly recommended!

Overall a good day and glad we went up early to avoid a messy drive Sunday morning. It was 41 degrees when we left Saddleback and 27 degrees in Freeport when we got home. Cold air hung on at lower elevations. Regardless - great job Saddleback crew for putting out a quality product. Here is a quick video of our day.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 20, 2014 - A Beautiful Day at Saddleback

Upper Professor is Buried in Snow!
Saturday, December 20 was one of those unique ski days. The skiing was fantastic. Last week we ripped up fresh light powder. Saddleback picked up 9"+ mid week and since the mountain was closed last week (they are open 7 days a week now) no one had skied it! This was good and also challenging. Good that we got some fresh stuff to play in and the groomed trials were in mint condition... but challenging in that the snow settled and was a bit 'slabby' where it had not been groomed making a bit difficult to turn.

However as the day went on, the snow got chopped up by skiers and then it skied wonderfully. Notably Upper Professor, Jane Craig and Peachy's Peril skied awesome mid-day on. We got into the Wolly Bugger glade for the first time. It always takes a few runs through a glade to get used to it. We had fun exploring all the features and we are looking forward to future runs where we can ski it more aggressively. Safe to say the sawyers of the glade did fine work!

Saddleback is working hard to get the upper mountain open. (UPDATE - it will open Monday the 22nd)  They were pounding out snow on Tri-Color and Green Weaver. Unfortunately that closed the NW pass and some great terrain on that side of the mountain, but we understand the mountain has to take advantage of the cold temps and get snow on the main trails. Looks like they will have the upper chair open for Christmas which is earlier than usual. Regardless, we had another wonderful mid-December ski experience.

But the even more remarkable thing about the day was experiencing nature's beauty. It was a crisp, clear, bluebird day with no wind. There was not a breath of wind anywhere on the mountain. We had vista's like this all day.

Gorgeous view of the snow capped trees and low fog over the open water of Rangeley Lake

The Saddleback Canadian Jays were eager for a treat.

Since the wind was so still, the snow guns filled the air with fine snow crystals... and each chair ride was splashed with "snow rainbows".

"Snowbow" on the Rangeley Chair

"Snowbow" looking up Blue Devil courtesy of @AlecPhoto

And a young confused Loon landed on Hudson Highway and scooted down to Red Devil. The Saddleback Ski Patrol expertly captured, sledded it off the mountain and released back into the open water of Rangeley Lake. Here is the Portland Press Herald story about the event.

Loon on its way off the mountain (image courtesy of the Saddleback Ski Patrol)

You never know what is going to happen at Saddleback but it is a wonderful place to experience nature!

Here is the ski-video from our day. The trail lineup as follows:

0:18 Upper Hudson Highway
0:25 Wolly Bugger Glade
0:35 Jane Craig
1:20 Gray Ghost
1:40 Golden Smelt
1:47 Carnage on Golden Smelt
2:05 "Old Man Air" on Golden Smelt
2:20 Peachys Peril
2:40 Thrombosis Glade
2:50 More Gray Ghost
3:45 Jane Craig and Professor Cliff Hucks

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Quick Peek at the New Saddleback Glade - Wolly Bugger

This fall @MaineSkiFamily helped out the volunteer sawyers and mountain staff to help create a new Saddleback glade skiers left of Red Devil. You can view our fall glade work report here. The volunteer crew and mountain management kept with the fly fishing tradition of trail names and named this glade Wolly Bugger.

Quick Pic from an Early Skier of the  Wolly Bugger Glade
This weekend, the glade was open for the first time. We were at Saddleback on Saturday and didn't realize the glade was open, but we were having too much fun off the NW Pass to think about investigating its status fully. Next time we will be sure to check out Wolly Bugger and share our adventures. 

Fortunately some of the folks that did most of the hard work in the glade got first tracks in which is most appropriate. Some of the reports from the skiers and riders that experienced Wolly Bugger are:
  • It was great!
  • It was cool - Tight at the top some good drop downs.
  • It has a whole different feel than any other glade on the hill.
  • Liked it so much skied it twice!
  • Longer than I imagined ..with some good pitch and lots of big features...
We are looking forward to experiencing Wolly Bugger for the first time as well! Congrats and thanks to the volunteers and mountain crew for making this glade a reality this winter!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saddleback Stellar Opening Day - December 13, 2014

Click here for non-mobile version.

Let's review some past 'first days' at Saddleback and what the open trails and skiing conditions were.

December 18, 2011 - Trails open - Gray Ghost and Wheeler

December 15, 2012 - Trails Open - Gray Ghost, Royal Coachman, Wheeler

December 27, 2013 - We missed opening day, but only Gray Ghost, Royal Coachman, Wheeler, Royal Tiger and a couple of Natural Trials were open at this point.

Then there was December 13, 2014.

Earlier in the week there was a pretty big storm. Dumped 13+" followed by a bit of a warm up then freeze. Perfect to lock in the base. Then the days leading up to opening day 2-4 inches fell. Nice fluff on top. We were looking forward to heading up.

The day before opening Saddleback posts 55 trials will be open? Whaaat? Sounded great. I still thought it would be typical early season / dodge everything skiing. And no way the glades would be in any decent shape to ski. We went to bed with weather forecasts calling for an inch or two in the mountains overnight.

Then we woke up and drove through this.

To do this!

YES! It was an epic opening day. The most remarkable thing was the glades. All the glades from the NW pass on down (see my Saddleback Trail Guide for a complete description of all the trails) were in mid-winter form. The solid base provided awesome protection against the forest floor and the 8"+ on top made for epic tree skiing. Governor from the NW Pass was is mid-winter form as well.

The snow made trails (Royal Coachman, Gray Ghost, Wheeler, Royal Tiger) were wall to wall fun. The natural trails skied unbelievably well for December 13. You had to dodge around the water bars and things a bit, but it was extremely good. All the beginner trails below the Quad were groomed and available too. It was a modest crowd so it was ski-on to the lift all day.

Oh but the trees....

Winter is off to a great start for sure! Check out the video below for more fun in the snow.

Here are the trail names with video times:

0:20 Royal Coachman
0:40 Golden Smelt
1:00 Jane Craig
1:10 Glade Left of Jane Craig
1:50 Nightmare Glade
2:50 Intimidator Glade
3:25 Governor
4:30 Nightmare Glade